Book Review: Coloring Outside Autism’s Lines

Reviewed by Jennifer Minnelli, M.S., CCC-SLP

Coloring Outside Autism’s Lines: 50+ Activities, Adventures, and Celebrations for Families with Children with Autism by Susan Walton

I have finally found the book the School Psychologist was supposed to hand me when they gave us my child’s murky neurological diagnosis of Borderline Asperger’s and Sensory Processing Disorder. 

Susan Walton’s Coloring Outside Autism’s Lines is a must-have for anyone who finds themselves at the intersection of social inclusion and the company of actual people. It is operating instructions for parents of sensitive, quirky, and differently-abled children. With her proactive and practical suggestions for how to keep your quirky child entertained and engaged in a variety of real-life situations, Susan Walton deserves honorary degrees in Speech Pathology, Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy, and Child Psychology. Her skillful way of supporting and encouraging grieving parents to push on and pursue family dreams makes her also one part Social Worker. Regardless of where you are in your acceptance process, you will appreciate how Susan acknowledges the Superwoman and Superman in every parent of a child on the spectrum.

Susan offers nugget after nugget of empowering wisdom about how to prepare, engage, and keep your atypical child in her or his zone of proximal development, while also creating a bridge to the world beyond your home. Her advice ranges from very specific ideas about what stand-by items to keep in your car, to general, over-arching ideas about building your own community around your special child and special family. 

In my opinion, her tips and advice pertain to all families and children. Her discussion about children’s clothing, from both a sensory and motor planning standpoint, and as a visual way to communicate with other children, will assist parents with the challenge of how to dress their kids. Susan also gives great advice about how to create a cozy, organized home space tailored to your child’s sensory needs. 

Creating bonds between your autistic child and extended family members can be a challenge. There is a section in Chapter 6 specifically for grandparents, extended family, and close friends to read. It offers great ideas about how to support you and your child during visits. Chapter 10 offers specific advice about how to navigate the holidays with extended families, how to work compromises and create new traditions that fit your family’s needs. Chapter 11 provides great recommendations for sensory-friendly vacation ideas.

This a book that I wish I had owned when my child was much younger. I would recommend it to any family touched by Autism or special needs, and I will be recommending it to my friends, family and clients. Thank you, Susan Walton, for taking your time, energy, and creativity to support other families. You make coloring outside of autism’s lines a celebration indeed!

We hope that San Francisco Bay Area locals will join Susan at her Coloring Outside Autism’s Lines reading at Kepler’s Books in Menlo Park this Saturday, November 20th, at 7 PM.

Susan Walton and Jennifer Minelli are both contributors to The Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism.